Looking to broaden your horizons while gaining professional experience this summer? Try looking for an international internship.
Working abroad is a great way to build character and develop valuable skills for your future career. Here are a few tips for finding a placement and making the most of the experience.
Get hunting. All kinds of organizations offer international internships, especially in the areas of the environment and social issues. A great source of information is the CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) website. You can also try the employment centre at your university. “We help match students with appropriate positions. Plus, organizations often come to us looking for candidates,” states Marie-Claude Marin, a career counsellor at the Université de Montréal.
Start planning a year in advance. Postings often go up in July for three-month positions that begin in May of the following year. You should try to attend information sessions put on by the organization. “These events can help give you a better idea of what the position is all about and how you should apply,” says Ms. Marin.
Expect to start working before you leave. Normally, you’ll have to undergo training prior to your departure to prepare you for culture shock and other challenges. For example, if you are heading to Peru and your Spanish is minimal, they might suggest that you look into a language course.
Identify your skills and interests. Since working abroad can be a little overwhelming, particularly in developing countries, being able to adapt is very important. “Things don’t always go as planned, and it isn’t unusual that the organization’s needs change along the way. For example, a natural disaster might mean that instead of choosing books for a library, you’ll be rebuilding it instead,” explains Ms. Marin.
Consider the advantages. International placements are a great opportunity to apply the knowledge you acquired in the classroom. “You’ll build a network of contacts in other countries, which can be a real plus on your resumé, especially now that so many companies have branches around the world,” says Ms. Marin.